Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Dogs Trust, The Guardian and the Dangerous Dogs Debate: Your Views

About three weeks ago, we hosted a discussion on Facebook all about dangerous dog law. From about 9am to about 4pm, we kept the Discussion tab open and encouraged any one from our 220,000+ strong community there to post whatever they thought.

What we didn't tell our supporters at the time was that a round table discussion was being hosted by Dogs Trust and the BVA at the Guardian, which is being reported on today. The discussion was held under Chatham House Rule, which means that no-one is quoted by name or otherwise identified, so that a truly frank and open discussion can take place. A list of those who took part can be seen on the article linked to below.

Below are the questions we asked on Facebook and an anonymous snapshot of some of the views posted that day.

It is not a comprehensive list of all the areas covered and does not represent a statement or view of Dogs Trust, but gives an idea of the views expressed by our supporters that day.

Is Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 effective? It punishes the breed, not the deed; is that right?
"No. There's no such thing as a bad dog, just bad owners who turn the dog aggressive and that can happen with any breed. Meanwhile, those dogs listed on the DDA could, in the right hands, turn into well-adjusted, loving, sociable dogs."
"If DDA is so effective why are there 100's of pitbulls around and have only been on the increase? It's stupid and has not been thought out well at all, I mean it was only done overnight after all."
"There is a huge lack of education within this country when it comes to dogs. I have been out with friends who have all moved well out the way of a Staffy as it walked past, which then happily sniffed at me and let me stroke it. It was friendlier then my dog could be at the time! There is such a lack of education out there that needs to be addressed but to get it out to the whole country and to get them all to listen is a mission and a half."
"The wording of the legislation is also difficult to interpret... pitbull type, now sees many cross breeds being taken from their families on their measurements alone. Lab staffie crosses, mastiff crosses, great dane crosses, condemned to a lonely early death because they look like a type, despite being lovely family pets."

What are the implications of the DDA for dog welfare in the UK?
"The implications are that whole breeds are going to be persecuted for the actions of the few. Instead of learning that breeds aren't violent and that individual dogs are trained to be that way, all that will happen is that more breeds of dog will become illegal and so more dogs will be killed purely because of what they look like."

"There need to be more training schools and possibly something like Ofsted for them so they are more regulated. There are various trainers training in different ways from the dominance training to allowing the dog to work it out themselves. Each dog is different but there needs to be something to help keep trainers and then the dogs in check in some way."

"Some people don't actually care about the welfare of the dog and these are the people the DDA should be targeting. Those who would use a dog as a status symbol, or as a fashion accesory, or as a weapon, or those who see puppies simply as a means to make easy money."

Is the Scottish DDA an improvement?
"I think my country, Scotland, has the right idea with doggy ASBOs."
"The ASBO act is a step in the right direction, targeting the "deed not the breed" but so much more needs to be done to educate the general public."

Should the law be extended to cover private as well as public property?
"No I dont feel that it should. Why should dogs be restricted even more somewhere they should be allowed to be dog?"
If you have a swimming pool, your yard has to comply with a range of regulations that not only prevent kids who live in the house from getting in to the pool area, but also prevent your neighbours kids from doing the same (ie proper fencing). Why shouldn't this type of regulation be applied to owners of dangerous dogs?
"Yes - absolutely. A dangerous dog is a dangerous dog no matter if it's on private property or not. As we know, dogs that are trained and are well balanced and socialised tend not to be dangerous. So a dog that is dangerous perhaps hasn't the best start in life or has been trained inappropriately."
"My late father was a postman nearly all his life so came into contact with many dogs on their property. He always looked around if there was a Beware of The Dog sign before entering. On many occasions a dog would race out when the door opened, barking and snarling at him whilst delivering a parcel. 99% would get their dogs in and start apologising... The few who let the dogs carry on would be politely asked to put them inside. He never met anyone who wouldn't. Would these be classed as 'dangerous'?"
"I think the difference between a dangerous dog on public land and a dangerous dog on private property is that everyone has the right to be safe when they step into a public place. "

How can we work with key demographics that will be more likely to face challenges in this area?
"How to get from call for help from member of the public to education is tough. Compulsory microchipping at point of intervention with the specific objective of linking dog with owner, and using education as penalty mitigation."

"It is a great shame that we cant have more dog training classes available for some of the people who own the dogs that they are using as status dogs. Showing them how fantastic obedience is or agility and bring out their competitive streak but in a completely safe and fun for both way. This could be combined with advice on feeding, microchipping, vaccination etc for their dog but in a non confrontable way."

Are key agencies (eg police / local authorities) equipped to deal with this?
"No, the police are too busy dealing with other things and paperwork and there are not enough on the beat anymore. Local authorities can't deal with it either as they are too stretched with providing the essential services to boroughs."

"Police community support officers in my neighbourhood are very apporoachable I have found and take this kind of thing very seriously, I admire the job they do."

"Not that easy to police the puppy farms sadly. There needs to be education of people considering buying a dog many people dont really understand about puppy farms and just see it as way of getting the breed they want cheaply."

Will compulsory microchipping help?
"Definitely. All cats and dogs should be chipped by law. It really would help many animal welfare problems."

"YES... absolutely and without question! Impose a fine on those that don't - that will soon help with funding issues!"

"Surely only the responsible will microchip, usual problem, caring owners/breeders do the right thing."

"The microchipping service would possibly need to be made easier and more efficient."

"Compulsory chipping seems like a good idea, but will only work if there are meaningful enforceable penalties for non compliance and sufficient resources are available to police compliance."

One subject that did come up quite a lot and was eagerly debated was whether the dog license should be reintroduced. For Dogs Trust's view on why microchipping is preferable, take a look at this explanation from our Marketing Director, Adrian.

It's really valuable to us to know what our supporters think, especially about such a controversial, occasionally emotional subject so please, keep adding to the comments.

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